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Sofia view: southern gas corridor goes TAP

A known unknown has been answered with respect to gas transit infrastructure in Europe. The Shah Deniz consortium, involving BP and Azerbaijan’s public company SOCAR amongst others, has decided in favour of the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP), connecting Turkey and Italy via Greece and Albania (and against the European Commission-backed Nabucco West project) as the preferred route to ship Caspian gas into the EU. The decision comes after SOCAR submitted a bid for DESFA, the company operating Greece’s gas grid which is tendered by the government.  (In related news, Gazprom gave up its bid for DEPA, the Greek gas trading company, reportedly under pressure from the European Commission.)

The choice for TAP is disappointing for the advocates of Nabucco – Austria, the Central European governments, Romania, and Bulgaria - which argued that it would bring about diversification away from

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Berlin notebook: fat years for Germany alone

All those who speculated about a change of government, including a substantial change in policy, in Germany after the elections may be disappointed: not only is it likely that the policy may not change, but perhaps not even the coalition. The weakness of the SPD (Social Democrats) is the CDU’s (Christian Democrats) strength. Small signs are emerging and pointing to what may have seemed unlikely (at least for the past weeks): that the coalition of Christian-Democrats and Liberals may simply stay in power.

In Germany, Angela Merkel seems largely unaffected by Hitler paintings or Bismarck analogies, or by a European South that seems to be politically and socially on fire – and European-wide criticism rolls off her skin like water droplets from glass. Instead, it seems to strengthen this embodiment of the "Swabian Housewife", guarding Germany's money without needing the rhetoric or

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Unemployment across the eurozone

Ministers from France, Germany, and Italy are expected to meet in Rome this week to tackle youth unemployment and introduce reforms to relaunch growth and competitiveness. What is at stake is the European project. The German finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, described it as a "battle for Europe's unity", and warned that a revolution might occur if Europe's welfare model is abandoned. Joblessness is an emergency and it is good sign that it is on top of the agenda of the next European Council (to be held end of June). President Van Rompuy acknowledged [1] that the number of unemployed people in the Union, especially of the unemployed young, is at record levels. At last, European leaders are addressing social issues alongside economic ones.

The European Commission has proposed a series of measures in the framework of the Youth Employment Package: the European Alliance for

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The Berlin notebook

Image from Hakan DahlstromA year from now, at the end of May 2014, a new European Parliament will be elected. Before that, in September, the Germans will vote - deciding to keep or eject Angela Merkel, and the make-up of the governing coalition.

ECFR is using this opportunity to launch a new series on our blog – the “Berlin Notebook.” The idea is not only to follow the elections closely from Berlin, and deal with the various questions it throws up, but also to observe the shifts and changes within the new German government in the months ahead of the EP elections. This should help us understand whether or not the year 2014 will be a tipping point; whether or not it becomes the moment when Europe reconciles itself with its citizens, gets serious about integration, starts building a fully-fledged European democracy, and overcomes some old fashioned notions of sovereignty and nationalism.

Looking back, the

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Rome view: Enrico Letta’s burden

He is young and experienced, but - most importantly - he is a truly European. Enrico Letta, 46, the new Italian Prime Minister, is probably the last chance Italy has to avoid new elections. In a country paralysed by stagnation and where enterprises shut down every day, his first address was significant: "austerity measures” he said “have reached their limits." He also quoted President Barroso where he pointed out the urgency to place stronger emphasis on growth, including in the short term.

My bet is that European partners, as well as international markets, will like him. Letta has an old connection to the Union: from 2004 to 2006 he was MEP with the Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, sitting in the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs. At the age of 32 he was Minister for European Affairs under the first D'Alema government (becoming the youngest

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